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H-1B Visas: The Fight to Save Spousal Work Permits

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H-1B Visas: The Fight to Save Spousal Work Permits

The Trump Administration’s plan to scrap an Obama era rule permitting the spouses of H1-B visa holders to be legally employed is causing a lot of anxiety in the immigration community, but there is hope. For years, spouses of immigrants who came to work in the U.S. were themselves prohibited from seeking employment because of the way the H1-B laws were written. The situation strained the marriages and finances of many couples who sought to build lives and careers in America. President Obama tried to remedy the situation by allowing spouses of H-1B visa holders with pending green card applications to be issued temporary work permits. The new permits, called H-4 visas, allowed approximately 100,000 women to find work. 

The Trump administration moved quickly to repeal Obama’s program, but the process of rescinding the rule has been delayed several times due to bureaucratic snags and growing opposition. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) now says the proposal is scheduled to be introduced in June 2018. There is growing opposition to Trump’s move, however. Many H-4 visa holders have become activists, campaigning under  #standwithh4ead, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association is lobbying to save the H-4 program. Moreover, McClatchy recently reported that “130 representatives signed a letter to the Department of Homeland Security urging that the Trump administration reconsider its plans to eliminate work authorization for the spouses of H-1B visa holders.”

Also, as the Economic Times points out, H-4 visas are still being issued and renewed, and none have been revoked to date. Revoking the rule entails a lengthy process. Once DHS formally proposes the change, the law requires a 60 day public comment period. And then DHS has to review the comments and answer questions. After that, the impact of the law must be studied before any legislation is drafted. And then there may be legal challenges. The Times quotes New York immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta as saying that “If a legal challenge can result in a preliminary injunction from a federal judge, that would freeze the proposal to rescind the rule for months, or even years.”